DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Tennis's French Open has reached quarterfinal stage with plenty of big names advancing. None of them, though, are American, we should point out. The U.S. men and women have all been shut-out in singles action.
For the hometown crowd at the Roland Garros Tennis Complex today, though, they get to cheer on one of their own countrymen - and here to tell us more - Sports Illustrated, Jon Wertheim, in Paris. Jon, welcome back to the program.
JON WERTHEIM: Oh, thanks, David.
GREENE: So Gael Monfils, this French hometown hero, up against Britain's Andy Murray - I mean, how excited is the hometown crowd?
WERTHEIM: They will be excited, A, because he is from France but, B, and, more importantly, because he is this terrifically entertaining, theatrical player. And it is never dull. He can be exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. But it's all form over function.
And, you know, the eve of the tournament, he put on this break dancing exhibition. He's one of these great showman. And, realistically, he probably will not beat Andy Murray, who's much steadier, but it will be good theater.
GREENE: Can you break dance on clay?
WERTHEIM: Yeah, there's a great YouTube of this. And you just wonder if, heaven forbid, he had injured his wrist or his back break dancing on clay - that would have been a first for pretournament injury.
GREENE: That would not have gone down so well with the hometown crowd, probably.
WERTHEIM: Form over function.
GREENE: Right. Well, I guess so. Well, we should mention there are two Spaniards left - Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. They're going up against each other. Nadal, the defending champ - I mean, is he playing like a defending champ?
WERTHEIM: You know, a week ago, I would've said no. Nadal is not only the defending champ here. He has lost one match at the French Open since 2005.
GREENE: That's incredible.
WERTHEIM: I mean, he just absolutely owned this event. Last year, he beat Ferrer in the finals. They're meeting in the quarterfinals. And Nadal had a rough spring - lost several matches - even on clay, including one to Ferrer. But since coming to Paris, he's played like the Rafael Nadal of old and we're - look like we're veering toward the Nadal-Djokovic final that many predicted before the tournament began.
GREENE: Yes, Serbia's Novak Djokovic won his quarterfinal match. And, I mean, is Nadal-Djokovic - I mean, is that the big-time final that everyone has just been dying for since this tournament began?
WERTHEIM: That is the big-time final. And this is the one major that Djokovic has never won. He came very close to beating Nadal last year. And these two - as Roger Federer has aged a bit, and as the old social order has disintegrated a bit in men's tennis - it really is Nadal and Djokovic and then a fairly lengthy staircase down to the next level. They're really the two stars right now.
GREENE: Well, as I mentioned, no Americans left in the tournament. And adding insult to injury, we have a Canadian who's doing very well. Our editor here, David McGuffin, is Canadian. He's jumping up and down here outside the studio this morning. It's 20-year-old Genie Bouchard, on track in her goal to become the first Canadian player to reach a Grand Slam final. She meets Maria Sharapova in the semis. I mean, tell me her story.
WERTHEIM: I keep seeing no American left, and I think it's just an abbreviation. They mean North American left. But, no, Bouchard is a really interesting story in that she comes from Quebec. She comes from a family of means. This is not a typical professional tennis back-story in a lot of ways, but she is imbued with a real toughness. And she's not particularly physically imposing, but she really has this taste for battle.
She's young and quite aggressive and just figures out ways to win matches which, ironically, is a bit like Maria Sharapova, who is marketed for her beauty and elegance, but, in truth, her tennis is very inelegant. And she tends to win ugly, but she does win. So the networks will be very pleased that you sort of have this cheap storyline of this beauty match of Bouchard and Sharapova. But, really, for the tennis fans, this is a great battle between two of the better fighters out there.
GREENE: All right. Maybe a first for Canada - we've got a hometown hero, and we've got break dancing. Who could ask for anything more at the French Open?
WERTHEIM: That's tennis for you.
GREENE: Jon Wertheim from Sports Illustrated, thanks so much.
WERTHEIM: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.